Assassins used a VX nerve agent to kill the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last week, Malaysian police said Thursday. The Chemistry Department of Malaysia said two women rubbed the liquid to the eyes and face of Kim Jong Nam at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. It is still unclear how the women did not fall ill from being in contact with the agent. Kim died before he was able to get medical care. Malaysian police are attempting to question a top diplomat at the North Korean embassy and an employee of the North Korean airline over the death of Kim. Four North Korean men were able to fly back to Pyongyang on the day of Kim’s assassination. Malaysian police have alerted Interpol and are seeking the men for questioning. The two women who applied the agent, one Vietnamese and one Indonesian, have been arrested and are in custody.
—Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly assured Mexico the U.S. will not carry out mass deportations of people illegally in the country, and nor will any immigration crackdown involve the military. More here
—Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded an Obama administration memo that barred the Bureau of Prisons from contracting with private prisons. More here
—We’re tracking the news stories of the day below. All updates are in Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5).
The Chemical That Killed Kim Jong Nam
Sessions Rescinds Obama-Era Order on Private Prisons
Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded Thursday an Obama administration memo that barred the Bureau of Prisons from contracting with private prisons. The memo, which was released by then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates in August, said private prisons, which house approximately 12 percent of federal prisoners, compare poorly to federal facilities in terms of services, resources, safety, and security. In his new memo, Sessions said the Obama directive “changed long-standing policy and practice, and impaired the Bureau’s ability to meet the future needs of the federal correctional system.” Despite holding only a fraction of federal prisoners, private prisons have received plenty of scrutiny. An August 2016 report by the Justice Department found that private prisons incurred more safety and security incidents than their federal counterparts, and a 35,000-word article published by Mother Jones about an undercover reporter’s experience as a corrections officer at a private prison in Louisiana highlighted similar deficiencies.
Kelly to Mexico: No Mass Deportations, No Use of Military in Immigration Operations
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly assured Mexico on Thursday the U.S. will not carry out mass deportations of people illegally in the country, and nor will any immigration crackdown involve the military. Kelly’s remarks were made alongside Rex Tillerson, the U.S. secretary of state, and their Mexican counterparts in Mexico City. Earlier this week, the Department of Homeland Security unveiled new rules that greatly expands the number of people who can be deported from the United States—plans Mexico publicly criticized before Kelly and Tillerson’s arrival there.
Here are Kelly’s remarks on mass deportations:
This is something I would really like you all to pay attention to because it is frequently misrepresented or misreported in the press,. Let me be very, very clear: There will be no—repeat: no—mass deportations. Everything we do in DHS will be done legally, and according to human rights, and the legal justice system of the United States. All deportation will be according to our legal justice system, which is extensive and includes multiple appeals. The focus of deportations will be in the criminal element that have made it into the United States. All of this will be done as it always is: In close coordination with the government of Mexico.
And here are his remarks on the use of the military:
No—repeat—no use of military force in immigration operations. None.
Earlier Thursday in Washington, President Trump said. “We’re getting really bad dudes out of this country—and at a rate that nobody’s ever seen before. And they’re the bad ones. And it’s a military operation, because what has been allowed to come into our country.” Sean Spicer, the White House spokesman, later explained Trump was using the word “military” to mean in an efficient way.
You can watch Kelly and Tillerson’s statements here.
Thousands Evacuated in Northern California Floods
Tens of thousands of people in San Jose, California, were urged to evacuate their homes Wednesday after a reservoir overflowed, causing what officials say is the worst flood to hit Silicon Valley in nearly a decade. Coyote Creek, which flows through San Jose, California’s third-largest city, began to overflow at numerous places Tuesday after days of heavy rainfall, prompting city officials to issue mandatory evacuation orders for 14,000 people. Less severe evacuation orders were given to approximately 22,000 others. Though some evacuation orders have since been lifted, it is unclear how long the orders still in place will last, or the extent of the damage the flood has caused. City officials acknowledged their lack of preparedness to address the flood. “If the first time a resident is aware that they need to get out of a home is when they see a firefighter in a boat, then clearly there has been a failure,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo told the Los Angeles Times. “There is no question that we’ll need to do things differently next time.”
Video of Off-Duty LAPD Officer Appearing to Fire a Gun in Dispute With Minors Prompts Protests
Hundreds of people protested in Anaheim, California, Wednesday night in response to videos that appeared to capture an off-duty Los Angeles Police Department officer firing a gun during a dispute with a group of minors. Approximately 24 people were arrested during the protests, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Demonstrators lined the block in Anaheim shouting "no justice no peace," as police blocked the intersection pic.twitter.com/INmixM69F6— Melissa Etehad اتحاد (@melissaetehad) February 23, 2017
The videos (which were recorded by witnesses and posted to Youtube and Facebook; they contain strong language) show the off-duty police officer, who has not been identified, and a minor, who said in the video he is 13-years-old, in dispute Tuesday over an exchange that took place before the recordings began. As the LA Times reports, the dispute allegedly concerned “ongoing issues” with people walking across the officer’s property. In both videos, the officer is seen holding the 13-year-old, who repeatedly tells the officer to “let go,” by the collar of his sweatshirt. A group of young people observe the scene, and at one point one of them tackles the officer into a hedge. The officer stands up and continues to pull the 13-year-old by the collar over the hedge, while another person takes a swing at the officer, who then takes out from his waistband what appears to be a firearm. Seconds later, a gunshot is heard. No one was injured. Police responded to the incident and arrested the 13-year-old on suspicion of criminal threats and battery. A 15-year-old, who was charged with suspicion of assault and battery, was also arrested. The officer, who has not publicly been identified, was not. In a statement Wednesday, the LAPD said the officer involved in the incident is on administrative leave and that the department will review the videos, adding: “The complete investigation will be reviewed by the Chief of Police and the Board of Police Commissioners to determine whether the use of deadly force complied with LAPD’s polices and procedures.”
Iraqi Forces Capture Mosul Airport from ISIS
Iraqi forces, backed by U.S. airstrikes, have captured Mosul airport from the Islamic state, which seized Iraq’s second-largest city in 2014, Iraqi TV reported Thursday. The airport is located in western Mosul, an ISIS stronghold. Government forces and their allies captured eastern Mosul last month. The capture of the airport and areas surrounding would give Iraqi force control of roads west of Mosul. The Associated Press adds that foreign troops were present during the operation; it did not specify their nationalities. About 750,000 civilians still live in western Mosul, the UN estimates.
Trump Administration Unveils New Rules for Transgender Students
The Trump administration unveiled late Wednesday new rules covering transgender students in schools, reversing the Obama-era policy that required schools to accommodate students based on their gender identity rather than the gender on their birth certificates. My colleague Emma Green wrote about this last night, saying: “This decision to reverse course on transgender rights could have consequences for a number of pending court cases. But most importantly, the letter suggests that the federal government will step back from this fight altogether, leaving it to the states to decide.” Read her story here.